By The Don Gang (Don Ellis, Don Kallaus, and Don Sanborn)
Used by permission of the Old Colorado City Historical Society
Jim Bates made his first New Years Eve climb with the AdAmAn Club in 1951 when he accompanied the club as a guest photographer to photograph the climb for an illustrated article in the General Motors Company magazine, Friends. The AdAmAn Club adds a new member each year; and Jim was elected as the new member in 1954. During his years in the AdAmAn Club, Jim designed the AdAmAn Club patch and served as the club's Secretary-Treasurer, President, public relations director, photographer, and historian.
To commemorate the AdAmAn Club's 50th anniversary in 1972, Jim compiled the book The First Fifty Years which includes information on all AdAmAn Club members up though 1972 as well as many of Jim's own photographs. The Old Colorado City History Center's library is fortunate to have a copy of this valuable reference.
On any of Jim's 40 New Years Eve climbs, members of the AdAmAn Club said that he "climbed the peak twice" because he would frequently climb ahead of the group or drop behind to get the photos he wanted. Doing this, of course, required Jim to be in outstanding physical condition. One way that Jim kept in shape was by climbing the Manitou Incline with his friend and fellow AdAmAn member Ed Kirches. When the two men did this in the 1960's and 70's the Manitou Incline railway was operating. So, people were not supposed to be on the tracks. Whenever a car approached the two men would scurry into the forest so as not to be seen.
As the 1989 climb approached, Jim was bedridden with the flu; and while that kept the 73 year old Bates from climbing it did not keep him off the mountain. That year he rode to the summit in a four-wheel drive vehicle to join his friends who had climbed the peak. For the 1990 climb, Jim was back on the trail; and he continued to make the annual New Years Eve climb until he made his fortieth climb in 1995 at age 79.
On all of his AdAmAn climbs Jim wore the same pair of German wool pants which he had gotten from a German soldier during World War II. Before joining the Army in 1942 Jim had worked for seven years as a photographer for Alexander Film. This led to his assignment as a combat photographer. On June 6, 1944, D-Day at Normandy, Jim made his first parachute jump in darkness and his first in enemy territory. He landed in a canal and, with 150 pounds of weapons and camera equipment, could not get out until wind filled his parachute and pulled him to the bank. With his camera equipment soaked, Jim turned into a combat soldier for the first few days of the invasion.
Jim was awarded a Purple Heart after he was injured by shrapnel early in 1945. After a time in the hospital Jim returned to duty as a combat photographer. His footage shot at Cologne on March 6, 1945 earned him a Bronze Star and became famous. At the end of the war, Jim was a member of General Eisenhower's newsreel team at the Potsdam Conference in Berlin.
One of Jim's mementos from the war, in addition to the wool pants, was a German sniper's rifle which Jim used as his hunting rifle.
By the time Jim returned to civilian life, his combat photography had earned him enough of a reputation that he had the opportunity to work as a cinematographer in Hollywood. However, when he visited Hollywood he realized that he would not like the pressures of working in Hollywood's movie industry and that he would prefer to live in Colorado near his beloved mountains. So, he returned to his job doing motion picture production and research at Alexander Film, where he worked until 1964. One of Jim's projects at Alexander film was to develop a helicopter mounted camera rig which was used to shoot a Chevy ad which featured a woman in a Chevy convertible on top of a desert spire. Jim shot another Chevy playlet in which a Chevy truck was driven up Pikes Peak completely off road.
Following his 29 year career at Alexander Film, Jim worked as the head of the Audio/Visual Section of the International Typographical Union until his retirement in 1985. He was also appointed as the faculty head of Communication Institute of America Broadcasting School's Audio Visual Department..
In addition to his work at Alexander Film and the International Typographical Union, Jim produced some films independently, including a history of Pikes Peak and a Pikes Peak Range Riders film. He also filmed the Pikes Peak Hill Climb both from the roadside and as a passenger in race cars during practice runs. On one practice run, Jim intended to film from the back of Nick Sanborn's car, but Nick got the green flag before Jim was set up; and Jim was thrown off balance onto the floor. Every time he started to get up, Jim again lost his balance. Some time later, Jim and Nick were talking; and Jim asked Nick if he remembered that run. Nick said that indeed he did and told Jim that he'd been watching him in the rear view mirror. Every time Nick saw Jim start to get up he would jerk the wheel and cause Jim to lose his balance again.
Possibly following the lead of J. Don Alexander and his son John, Jim became involved with the Boy Scouts. In 1954 he was one of the leaders of a three day Pikes Peak hike for Explorer Scouts. After hiking up North Cheyenne Canyon and across the saddle to Bear Creek, the scouts camped in Jones Park where they dined on Army rations. On the second day they passed Lake Moraine, bushwhacked to Barr Trail, and camped at timberline in and around Fred Barr's original timberline shelter cabin. Then, on Labor Day they climbed the peak and watched the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. At least one of the scouts remembers having considered Jim Bates as the ideal leader for his first climb of a 14,000 foot peak.
In his later years Jim donated much of his archives, collections, and equipment to the Community Video Center of the Pikes Peak Library District. Through his friendship with Don Kallaus and Paul Idleman, Jim became acquainted with the Old Colorado City Historical Society and donated many of his photographs to the Society along with his darkroom. It was clearly Jim's intent that these donations benefit the community. In recent years, the Old Colorado City Historical Society has shifted to digital photography for its image reproduction and no longer used Jim's darkroom. Fortunately, the Society was able to donate the darkroom equipment to the Bemis School of Art at the Fine Art Center where the equipment will still be used for the benefit of the community.
Background photo courtesy of The Gazette/Mark Reis.